May 8, 2020—The Automotive Oil Change Association held a webinar on May 4, which was one of a series aimed at educating operators during the effects of COVID-19.
Representatives from one of the industry’s largest brands, Valvoline, were on hand to share some of the operational impacts they’ve seen.
Jeff Malicote, Valvoline’s general manager of Express Care, said that his division has seen a strong response in switching to the drive-thru model of service.
"We have gone from maybe 60 percent of our stores doing stay-in-car with Express Care to over 80 percent because of the COVID-19 response," he said.
Chris Calabrese, who is a regional director of operations for Valvoline Instant Oil Change stores, said that their existing drive-thru model helped to reduce drastic change in that respect. But those shops have made similar alterations that are taking place all over the country: greater use of masks, gloves and reducing customer contact. Cleaning has been placed at a higher priority.
Techs used to have customers put their keys into an RFID signal blocking box (to protect against an engine unexpectedly starting), but that has been put on hold. The preferred window height on the driver’s side if three-quarters of the way up, Calabrese said.
Overall, it has been a learning experience that requires leaders to be quick on their feet.
"It was every week, those first three or four weeks of learning what you didn't know before and updating procedures and policies," he said.
Another interesting note came when Malicote described the interplay between Valvoline’s company-owned stores and the independent franchisees and Express Care stores. He said that the corporate structure helped ideas ripple out from company implementation to independent operators if they chose.
"We take what we feel are best practices from our company-owned stores and then work with municipalities that are involved and take those fundamental learnings and policies and roll them out to the independent operators," Malicote said.
To his point about working with municipalities, he added that a company of Valvoline’s size has gotten the full experience in dealing with COVID-19 response regulations that vary by state, county and even city or town.
Business Coalition Formed
Another notable piece of news that came out of the webinar is the formation of the America’s Recovery Fund Coalition, which NOLN briefly reported on the same day.
The coalition is made up of more than 100 business organizations, trade associations and related groups. Joanna Johnson, AOCA’s policy director, explained the scope of the effort.
"This is an almost unthinkably large coalition,” she said. “It's about 58 million employees represented and almost 50 percent of the business interests in this country. It is enormous."
The coalition will lobby on behalf of its business interests. Johnson said that shops might see requests from the AOCA to participate in some way, whether it’s sharing their stories or helping to spread messages on social media.